The Bible and the Bhagavad Gita 51: True Love

An African boy with an “I Love Jesus” shirt in front of a painting in a museum, Paris, 2017, by Alexandralovejesus. From Wikimedia Commons

As he explains the Way of Devotion (bhakti yoga), Krishna describes how someone behaves who has truly renounced attachment to the results of their actions and devoted themselves to God:

That devotee who looks upon friend and foe with equal regard, who is not buoyed up by praise nor cast down by blame, alike in heat and cold, pleasure and pain, free from selfish attachments, the same in honor and dishonor, quiet, ever full, in harmony everywhere, firm in faith — such a one is dear to me. (BG, 12:18) 

This is the conclusion of a long passage in which Krishna lists attributes of a devotee, and says, “this one is dear to me.” I don’t read this as being conditional love: God loves everybody. I read this as describing how, as we enter into this reciprocal love, we are opened more and more to God’s love for us. We realize how dear we are to God when we allow ourselves to be loved by God, and see this radiant love extended to every atom of the universe.

There are two new Testament passages that echo this for me. The first is Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount, which describes this impartial love of looking “upon friend and foe with equal regard.” God’s love is described as sunshine and rain, which falls on us all without distinction.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:44-45 NRSV)

The second is Paul describing the equanimity of one who has renounced attachment to results:

I have learned how to be content in any circumstance. I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13 CEB)

I appreciate the way Krishna links impartial love with non-attachment. Though love can change us, love is not about fixing us. Love doesn’t enter our lives like a scolding parent trying to force a particular result. Love is about radical acceptance. It is through non-attachment that we come to understand true love.

Paul’s strength and endurance in every situation doesn’t come from gritting his teeth and plowing ahead. It comes from acceptance and non-attachment. As I learn to love impartially, like God’s own sunshine and rainfall, I come to bask in the sun and feel joy in the rain. I can be content in many circumstances.

Prayer:
Source of Love, of sunshine and rain, I long to love as you love, without anxiety or attachment to results.

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